This is one of two races per year run in Carkeek as a fundraiser for Endless Trails, one in the Spring and one in the Fall (the only difference is that one goes clockwise and the other counter-clockwise). It used to be a 12-hour only but recently they added a 6-hour option, so I did my first one last Fall resulting in 27.56 miles and about 6000 vert. This is not a big race and it’s totally low-key. This is no Boston marathon or Western States, Chuckanut or whatever. It’s not about who you know or what races you have done or how big of a sycophant you can be. It’s about seeing what you can do with probably about 50 competitors in all run by some really nice folks…perfect in it’s own way! They also have Glen Tachiyama taking photos (see photo above)!
Like the Fall version they had a 12-hour and two 6-hour options with a choice of morning start or mid-day start for the 6. Since the 12 was from 7 to 7, my race started at 1pm ending at 7.
A few days leading up to the race i was feeling something like an abdominal strain or a hernia. It was mild discomfort, but i was afraid of something blowing up during the race but also feeling very confident in my legs so I decided to just give it my all.
I wasn’t going to do much tapering, as in the Fall race I hadn’t and performed really well but work got in the way so i ended up with two full days “rest” prior to the event (i don’t like the term of non-running being called “rest” because i find it less restful and feel more agitated overall than if i could get a run in each day).
My nutrition plan was easy because it’s a 2-mile loop so all i did was fill my backpack with whatever i might need and have my own mini aid station, using the supplied station sparingly. A really nice thing about the afternoon start is that an hour before the race i had a big turkey sandwich and blender-full of kale, banana, yogurt & hemp oil smoothie (hemp oil feels great on the gut).
During the race I ended up eating 2 trail butter packets, 2 mango banana clif baby food pouches, 1.5 small bags of tailwind, a few nuts, about 12 oz of coke, a quadruple espresso with cream and i made sure to drink at least one water bottle every two laps. I was running with the handheld every other lap but after a few laps realized that i am a camel and can chug enough water at the aid station and i wasn’t drinking from it while moving so i then opted for no handheld. i figured if i had to stop to drink i might as well wait for the aid. This only works on a 2-mile loop mind you. I really like the baby food things because I could just squeeze it all in and swallow in one big gulp and not have to carry it trying to chew or decide when to eat…on the uphill when my heart rate is up or on the downhill wasting precious time.
When the race started i decided instead of going slow i thought about what kind of effort level i could sustain for 6 hours and went with that. my legs were feeling so good and strong i did a couple of 19 minute laps, then a couple of ~20 minute laps and gradually slower from there but sustaining the same effort. After about three laps though my ab started to hurt so i took two advil keeping in mind that i will have to boost my water intake a little.
The course is tough but the trails are great and very forgiving. I do have an advantage because the park where the race is is in my neighborhood and i run here weekly and have familiarized myself with every jump and turn on the course. It’s a beautiful area in a wooded ravine and is in the middle of the city but you wouldnt’ know. The trails goes through riparian and cedar forest crossing a couple of creeks on bridges and then opens up at the bottom with fantastic views west of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. It basically goes up one side of the ravine about 200 feet, most of the way down, across the hillside crossing the road at the bottom and up 200 feet on the other side then traverse and back down and there are lots of stairs built into the trail where it is steepest so it never really gets too slippery for my (original) clifton road shoes which are great for downhills. They also have a smaller .5 mile loop that you can take if you run out of time but the option is there for the entire race.
I have another advantage in a race like this (at sea level) and that is i have developed a pretty quick power hike using my glutes. The glutes are really big muscles and require a lot of energy, but they also recover very quickly and in an up and down course like this one with no sustained climbs or descents you can do the hills like reps. Today as i write this i have a lot of soreness but my glutes feel fine! i will have to keep on thinking about how to use them more in these races.
The weather was excellent. Perfect really considering what we have dealt with here in Seattle. It was the wettest winter ever and for the past month the sun would only come out when I was stuck at work…but yesterday the sun was out in full and it stayed nice and cool in the mid 50’s and the trails were 99% dry! Some clouds came in late but it didn’t rain a drop until the race was over. That said, Carkeek, being the gem that it is a lot of folks came to the park during the race to amble the trails and large groups were down near the aid station…so every early loop there was a maze of wandering people. I dont really mind and i can skip by folks with no problem EXCEPT when people do this totally illogical thing jumping suddenly to one side without looking…and for some reason yesterday there were a few groups of jumpy rednecks. I dont know what they are doing in Seattle. Perhaps they are a militia from Granite Falls making their presence known. Anyway i dont like dealing with jumpy people with guns, so i stopped warning people before going by and just started trying to slip by so that they could see my backside before their super-slow reactions kicked in. They wouldn’t shoot a runner in the back would they? I was also smelling a lot of herb. Perhaps these are stoners from Idaho or Montana? Whatever. ok i know ’nuff said. I also chatted with a few runners but tried to make it a point this time to stay focused and not lose any time. After about 4 hours i started to realize that my “A” goal of 30 miles was slipping away. I got close though:
15 big loops and one small loop, 29.45 miles. Now according to the Race Directors and Ultrasignup there are 436 vertical gain for each loop and I am guessing about 150 for the mini loop. That gives me 6690 vert. My watch though reads 4600 and Strava is giving me 29 miles and 5391 vert. They dont have results posted yet and i dont know the results from the morning 6 but i am willing to bet i held the Masters’ mark for the 6. I’d like to make this Spring/Fall race a regular thing so we’ll see how long i can keep it.